Interview with Alan Weinkrantz

Last week, I sat down with Alan Weinkrantz during Expotech 2012 to share my thoughts on the Palestinian tech and startup scene.  In short, there’s a lot of potential here in Palestine.  Don’t believe me, come and check it out for yourself.

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Wasting time with Facebook

Lately, I’ve started to notice that I’m wasting sooooooo much time on Facebook. I’ve never been a big Facebook user, but it can definitely become an addiction where you unconsciously find yourself going back to Facebook every couple of minutes to check for updates, and usually little has changed since the last time I checked a few minutes ago. Having Facebook open while you work is such a huge distraction that I think it’s almost impossible to focus while having it open and constantly checking for updates.

I’ve never been a fan of company-placed restrictions on Internet access, although having such filters can limit the number of times one visits Facebook each day. Even if the filter allows Facebook, the sense that a person is being monitored might deter them from opening the Facebook page every couple of minutes. I do more strongly believe in self control. I should be the one who makes decisions on which Internet sites I access and how often. Since my main problem is Facebook, I decided to place self-imposed hurdles to make it harder for me to check Facebook.

Whether you’re thinking of a problem, talking to someone over Skype, or you spot your browser, it’s almost an unconscious decision to open Facebook and check for updates. For me using Chrome, I simple CTRL+T to open a new tab, Press “f”, which autocompletes to facebook.com and I press Enter and I feed my addiction for the next couple of minutes.

To make it a bit more difficult to open Facebook, I decided to modify my hosts file and point facebook.com to a broken page so I get a “Oops! This link appears to broken.” message. The nice thing is that I have complete control, I can change it back whenever I want, I just have to browse to the hosts file, comment out the line that I added, and save. While it’s not too much work, it still prevents me from constantly going to Facebook whether I want to or not.

For anyone with the same addiction and who wants to control their Facebook usage on their own. Simply browse to C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\ and open the hosts file. At the bottom of the page, enter:

127.0.0.1 http://www.facebook.com

Save the file and restart your browser and you may also need to flush DNS by going to Start->Run and typing in “ipconfig /flushdns”. Now when you open Facebook, you’ll get an error message. To be able to check Facebook again, open the hosts file again and place a # sign at the front of the line that you added, save, flush DNS and restart browser. You may need to change permissions on the hosts file to allow you to write to the file.

I don’t yet know how effective this is, but at least I got to write this entire blog post in record time and without once checking Facebook 🙂

Pinterest

A few days ago, I signed up for a pinterest account.  Although I’ve never really been very active on social networking sites, I’m trying to get more involved and realize that for the next few years at least, that’s where the world will continue to move.

For pinterest, what I thought was kind of interesting was the registration process.  I heard about the site, went to it, but couldn’t register.  It’s not open to anyone, you have to request registration, which I did and I received an email about 8 hours later telling me my registration has been approved and that I can now sign up as a member.  I’m not quite sure if this delay in allowing people to register is for technical reasons, i.e. to control the number of users and not overload the servers, or to build hype around becoming a member.

I think the idea of pinning images and sharing them with friends and followers is great, but I don’t think it will become very successful.  The main reason in my view is that it isn’t easy to use.  I’m not saying it’s difficult, just that it took a minute or so for me to think about how it works.  I was interested to see how it works, so I took the time.  For pinterest to become a popular social networking tool, people need to just be able to use it with almost no thought process involved.  What made Apple popular is that their products just work.  Anyone can use them, you don’t have to be a scientist or an engineer.  When things becoming complicated, most people will lose interest and instead of reading about how to use your tool, will decide to use something else.

Maybe most people that try pinterest will, from the start, think it’s easy to use or maybe not.  I guess we’ll find out in a couple of weeks.